The Spitfire Mk VIII in Aces High II
The Spitfire Mk VIII is a very dangerous opponent and all too often underestimated or misunderstood. The Mk VIII brings a lot of good abilities to a fight but isn’t typically that common if the Spitfire Mk XVI is available. The Mk VIII is an excellent opponent, it can outperform a lot of aircraft and will surprise a lot of people who are not used to facing them. In the Mid War Main Arena it really shines though: even perked it is quite the match for many opponents.
The Spitfire Mk VIII is pretty solid at low-medium altitudes but gets better as the altitudes increase. It’s about 5mph slower than the Mk XVI at similar altitudes, 310mph (337mph WEP) at sea-level, improving by about 4mph/1,000ft of altitude gain. This produces 330/358mph at 5K, 351/379mph at 10K, and 378/400mph at 20K. Those aren’t elite top-end numbers but they are not too bad. Speed starts to fall off gradually over 22K so it’ll be tough to keep up with the ultra-high altitude crowd. One advantage of the Spitfire Mk VIII is the increase in fuel capacity and split of the fuel into 4 different tanks. Fuel capacity increases to 149 gallons internal with an extra 36 gallons in a drop tank, 185 gallons total. Just as important is that the fuel is split between 4 tanks, a pair of wing-tanks (34 gallons), a top tank (57 gallons) and a bottom tank (58 gallons). That’s 1/3 more than most Spitfires and it really improves the fighting range/duration. Climb rate is very good, 4,600ft/min from sea-level, dropping off between 7K and 10K. It stabilizes at 4,100ft/min all the way up to 18K and then drops away till it hits less than 2,000ft/min at 30K. Again, the altitude of about 22K is about as high as you want to go without performance falling away. Acceleration matches the climb rates and is generally strong.
Aces High II Performance Charts
It’s telling that the Mk VIII has very limited options, it’s really intended as a fighter so external options are very limited. All guns are wing mounted, four .303s (350rpg) paired in the outer wings and a single 20mm (120rpg) cannon in each wing inboard. The cannons are Hispanos, hard hitting and with good reach, certainly effective against fighters but bombers can cause some problems. Part of the problem is the .303s that lack any real hitting power unless you zero in on someone at perfect convergence. Consider a short convergence for the .303s, something in the D200-D300 range, but you’ll have to hope to hold a target at that range for a couple of seconds to get results. Most people use the .303s only as a backup, to range an enemy, or to make them react so they can take a better cannon shot. Externally, the only option is the drop-tank or a 500lb bomb on the centerline. Most people take the drop-tank but given the increased internal fuel capacity, the Mk VIII gives you the option to instead put on the bomb if you wish. The bomb isn’t a whole lot but it could be useful if you anticipate you might run into a rogue vehicle or light structure that needs to be knocked down.
The handling is pretty classic Spitfire, well balanced and overall well mannered. Empty weight is 6679lbs, 350lbs more than a Mk XVI but the Mk VIII has an extended wingspan which helps. Turn radius is good, not a true dedicated turner but much better than average across a large speed band. The larger wing also helps with climb rate and at high altitudes. All the extra fuel can add quite a bit of weight but typically by the time you get to a fight it shouldn’t be a problem, it’s not exactly an excessive amount of fuel. Don’t use the flaps, they are for landings only. Roll rate is where most Spitfires suffer and the Mk VIII is not good, the wing-fuel and full wingtips certainly don’t help. Overall the roll can be considered sluggish but acceptable with a little help from the rudder. Spitfires are fairly speed tolerant and strong so there is little risk of the aircraft coming apart within all but the most extreme situations though over 500 IAS the controls will tend to get sluggish and heavy.
Fighting in the Spitfire Mk VIII
The Spitfire Mk VIII is a pretty easy aircraft to do well with but it’s usually a little overmatched by some real high-end opponents in the Late War Main Arenas.
When flying the Mk VIII, try and gain a little altitude before the fight (common advice) but also try and burn the wingtanks to reduce the roll-inertia issues with weight being off the centerline. It’s best to look for where you can get your opponent slowed down a bit and use the acceleration and climb to keep an enemy from escaping, then use some in-close fighting to get some cannon shots in to knock out the opponent quickly. A prolonged stall fight is not a great idea and the attempt should be made to use vertical performance to keep energy reasonably high in case you need to put on some quick speed. Unless you are up against a pure climber you should be able to match any sort of climbing fight. Don’t trade shots, the Spitfires are not good for that, but in the case of the Mk VIII at least a fuel hit won’t hole your only fuel tank and run you dry and helpless. One option is to manually switch fuel tanks when the bottom tank, which burns after the wings but before the top tank, is about half gone. That doesn’t seem to impact aircraft balance but leave fuel in two tanks.
If defensive, you probably will have trouble running from a lot of opponents though quick acceleration and climb can sometimes get you out of immediate trouble. Use quick and aggressive break-turns to foul the enemy’s aim. Try not to make the breaks predictable, mix up the direction and angle though note that the Mk VIII rolls better to the left and most people break-turn that way. Instead of rolling 90 deg, as most people would expect, roll 270 and then break to the right, for example. The Spitfire is pretty fragile in general, you can’t afford to take hits lest it hole a radiator or oil, the inline engine aircraft tend to not last long and overheat. Make sure you don’t forget to eject any external ordnance to lighten up and reduce drag. Overall you should be able to get the enemy in tight and if the speeds start to slow you should have the advantage in many scenarios. Use good maneuvering and you should be able to turn a fight pretty quickly if you avoid the first couple of attacks. If the enemy breaks away you might get a parting shot based on the quick acceleration and long reach of the cannons. If it’s a bit too far for the shot, use the acceleration and climb to pile on some quick energy incase they come back.
Fighting against the Spitfire Mk VIII
A Spitfire Mk VIII isn’t an easy opponent and you need to be quick and effective or decide to break away while you have an opportunity. The Mk VIII is not a very strong aircraft, it breaks fairly easily and even landing some casual hits on it might set in motion a quick fight. Note the multi-fuel tanks though, don’t get suckered into forgetting a fuel leak on a Mk VIII doesn’t mean much unless you are lucky. Be careful with speeds under 250mph, the turn-rate and radius of the Mk VIII are very good and unless you are flying a real premium turner, like an FM-2, Hurricane or Zero. Stay above your best turn speed and consider that you are probably losing the energy game the longer the fight goes on unless you have a really great energy ride. Spitfires tend to hold energy well and the Mk VIII also replaces very well what it does lose. If the fight starts to turn, turn away and extend, the top end speed of the Mk VIII is only average and if the enemy has burned his WEP then it should be an easy escape.
Defensively, the Mk VIII is going to be trouble if it arrives with an energy advantage that it can use to pin you down. If you get pinned so it can start to work you over then you are likely to get into trouble. Climbing away is unlikely to succeed, accelerating away isn’t going to work unless you can get out quickly from Hispano range and the turn rate/radius is going to give you trouble is speeds start to bleed down. Try and exploit the roll-rate issues of the Mk VIII if you can to get out of phase and then use the time gained to break away. You can’t afford to let the Hispanos hit you but a few .303 hits are unlikely to be of concern. That’s a risky game though as you can’t tell if the Hispanos are out of ammunition or whether the enemy is just saving them for his best shots. Top speed and roll-rate are weaknesses in the Mk VIII and can typically be exploited but unless you are really outstanding in some other area of performance it’ll come down to some of that piloting stuff to escape.
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